[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Heart of Spring (1919), Ballad and Lyrical Poems (1923), and Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934).]
The tall man wooed her in the South,
They loved along the Sea;
The tall man caught her to the North
And she went tearfully.
He talked of all the full seasons,
The white wheat was his gold;
But the long fight in the wilderness
To her he never told.
She saw the cool brown Winters pass,
The heart-sick Spring come on,
And the Summer as a great tyrant
Till half her hope was gone.
Her lips they were the woman’s lips
Eager to bless and blame;
The lean years quelled her, and in them
Her snow-white children came.
At night she sang them to their sleep
With cool songs of the Sea,
And in the day her big soft eyes
Went South eternally.
She sang of boats and merriment
And ships that come and go,
Of orchards and the rosemary,
And all the flowers that grow.
She sang of all the miracles
That in the South are seen,
Of all the gracious waterfalls
And all the world of green.
She told them of the blue waters,
Of all her soul had planned,
Of the crying birds and the seaweed
And the music on the sand.
She said, These whom I love shall go
Where the wind is sweet and free,
My little inland children
Shall wander by the Sea.
The elder was a five-years girl
With the blue eyes of the mother,
And younger by a year there ran
A flaxen-headed brother.
The North Wind in his war came out
And ceased not night and day,
And the little inland children
Had lost the heart to play.
These two fell ill with a quick fever
— ’Twas in the red ripe weather —
Kind neighbours came with flowers for them
When they lay dead together.
Oh, that we love goes lightly out:
The clouds play in the sky,
And half the winds say openly
Here is a day to die.
Slowly she saw them, and her eyes
Went South eternally:
She said, God stole my children —
They never saw the Sea.
An old man said, Your children now
Shall walk the streets of gold;
But she said, It is a dim Heaven
And merciless and cold.
Then spoke to her an old mother
Of Love that is Divine;
But she said, The God of Love he is
A foe to me and mine.
Then spoke to her a sweet neighbour
Of good days yet to be;
But she said, God stole my children,
They never saw the Sea.
The tall man spoke in lover talk
To blend her for the day,
But the Sunlight was more merciful:
It had no word to say.
Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, Sydney: The Bookfellow, 1919, page 67-70
Also published in:
John Shaw Neilson, Ballad and Lyrical Poems, Sydney: The Bookfellow in Australia, 1923, pages 28-30
John Shaw Neilson (edited by R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Melbourne: Lothian Book Publishing Company, 1934, pages 61-63
In Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934), the word “blend” (in the last stanza) was replaced with “blind”, whereas it is given as “blend” in Heart of Spring (1919) and Ballad and Lyrical Poems (1923).
’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”
woo = to try to gain the affection or love of someone, especially with a view to marriage; to court solicitously; to seek the favour, support, or business custom of someone (past tense: wooed; present tense: wooing)
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